A top Nicaraguan official condemned President Daniel Ortega’s government on Wednesday, calling it a “dictatorship” that is stifling civil and political freedoms in the Central American nation.
Speaking in a video address to the Organization of American States (OAS), Nicaragua’s Ambassador to the OAS Arturo McFields said, “I speak for more than 177 political prisoners and more than 350 people who have lost their lives in my country since 2018.”
“Denouncing my country’s dictatorship is not easy, but remaining silent and defending the indefensible is impossible,” he said.
McFields, who took office in November 2021, said he was speaking out despite being afraid. “I must speak although my future and that of my family is uncertain,” he said.
“Since 2018, Nicaragua has become the only country in Central America that has no print newspapers. There’s no freedom to publish a simple tweet, [of posting] a simple comment on social media. There are no human rights organizations… They’ve all been closed, expelled, or shuttered. There are no independent political parties, there are no credible elections, no separation of powers. ”
CNN was unable to reach the Nicaraguan government for comment.
However, Nicaraguan state media posted a letter on Twitter saying that McFields does not represent Ortega’s government and that the country’s ambassador to the OAS is Francisco Campbell Hooker, who has been “duly accredited.”
CNN has reached out to the OAS for comment.
Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled their homeland to avoid persecution since 2018, when Ortega’s government cracked down on widespread anti-regime protests, killing hundreds of people, injuring thousands and arbitrarily detaining many, according to Human Rights Watch.
Ortega claimed a fifth term as president last November. In June 2021, his government began using a vague national security law as justification to lock up opposition presidential candidates, opposition leaders, journalists, human rights activists and others ahead of the November election.
At least 40 opposition figures have been found guilty of conspiring to undermine national integrity and financial crimes, CNN reported on Tuesday. This includes former presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, who was sentenced on Monday to eight years in prison for financial crimes, according to a Nicaraguan human rights non-governmental organization.
As he approached the end of his address, McFields said he was hopeful because people inside and outside the government “are tired of the dictatorship and of its actions.”
“People can be deceived for some time but not all the time,” McFields said. “God sometimes takes his time. But never, Mr President, God never forgets. ”
In a tweet, OAS President Luis Almagro said he valued McFields’ courage. “This is the ethically correct position,” Almagro said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also applauded the ambassador’s comments, saying in a tweet, “We commend Amb. McFields’ courage in giving voice to the millions of fellow Nicaraguans hoping for a return to democracy. ”